Any lingering thought of a Chicago homecoming for Javy Báez went up in the smoke of all the free agent activity burning through baseball in the final hours before this week’s expected lockout.
Báez, a two-time All-Star and 2018 MVP runner-up for the Cubs, has agreed to a six-year, $140 million contract with the Tigers, according to multiple reports.
Báez, who was traded to the Mets by the Cubs as part of the deadline purge in July, becomes the third from this year’s historic class of five All-Star shortstops to land deals ahead of a lockout and transaction freeze expected to take effect after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million) and Marcus Semien (seven, $175 million) both signed with the Rangers in recent days, leaving only Colorado’s Trevor Story and Houston’s Carlos Correa — widely considered the top shortstop on the market — unsigned.
It’s the third significant move of the offseason for the Tigers, who are taking steps to compete after a rebuilding process that has cost five straight losing seasons. They also traded for Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart and signed free agent pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million).
Báez, a Gold Glove winner in 2020, was a key, breakout performer for the Cubs during their 2016 championship run, sharing National League Championship Series MVP honors with Jon Lester and considered by the Cubs the MVP of the NL Division Series (no official award is given for that round).
The former No. 9 overall draft pick (2011) rebounded from a poor 2020 and slow start in 2021 to hit .265 with 31 home runs and an .813 OPS this season — including .299 with nine homers and an .886 OPS in 47 games for the Mets after the trade.
Báez, who turns 29 Wednesday, had negotiated with the Cubs for an extension in spring 2020 before the pandemic shut down the game, and talks. He reportedly rejected an eight-year, $168 million deal during those talks — for a $21 million average annual value compared to the $23.3 million he gets from the Tigers.
Overall, he’ll make $161.6 million over that eight-year stretch (including full-season value of the 2020 salary that was prorated for the short season).